JWL Issue #030: Tasting Australian Cabernet

November 27, 2018

Last Thursday, I took part in a mini tasting night with a couple of friends. This has been something we’ve done informally every now and again but are now solidifying as a monthly experience. 

The approach was: choose a grape or an area or something, and get three wines in that category. One is a supermarket, budget wine (£7-10), the other two are independents (one at £10-15) and one at £18-25). 

It’s a lot of fun and a really interesting way to get know some grapes/regions/etc a bit better.


Australian Cabernet

First up was a Coonawarra 2017 from M&S. There was a strong herbal/medicinal note for me that overpowered the fruit a lot. It was somewhere in the eucalyptus note but not one I was familiar with outside of wine. The finish was short, but overall it was a reasonably quaffable wine. 

Second up was the Cabernet Sauvignon from the Penley Estate Phoenix was named one of the top 100 wines worldwide by Wine Advocate in 2018, which is strong praise. Here, we had aged aromas: vanilla from the wood, charred cedar, and other slightly leathery notes that you might associate with older wines. This was starting to come to life but the fruit didn’t quite gel with these other aromas. It's £12.95 from ND John. 

Finally, was the stomper. Arlewood’s 2012 Cabernet (also from Amathus, but couldn’t find a link online) had a far greater fruit dominance that the Penley Estate. It felt far better to drink right now, with perhaps the Penley still needing a bit of time. It was a big, in your face wine, but for me the Phoenix was the one I wanted to drink today.

Interestingly, the M&S wine didn’t noticeably have any residual sugar on it. That was until you went back to taste it after the Penley & Arlewood. Going back to it, sugar sat on the tongue like you’d snatched a lump from your granny’s sugar jar. 


Residual Sugar

I find that sweetness always gets people with tasting. A lot of the time you might think a wine is sweet but actually it’s just the fruit you can taste or smell. Almost all red wines are sweet, even if they do have some sweetness it is often miniscule. 

Residual sugar refers to the level of sugar that is left over from the grapes. Fermentation can be stopped before all the sugar is fermented, meaning that sweetness is left there. Think about where the sweetness comes from next time: and specifically think about the end of your tongue.

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